Saturday, November 18, 2006
Iraqis Must Stand Tall
Maybe the Democrats are on to a good idea. The Republicans contemptuously call it "cut and run", but there might be more to it. I'd rather advocate a clear transfer of responsibility. The Iraqi people must stand more firmly on their own. The world needs to be patient, but the United States can't be Iraq's protector forever.
It will be interesting, now that the Democrats are in ascendancy in both houses of Congress, how policy in Iraq will change. I hope it does, but not by how much the Democratic rhetoric initially threatened that it would.
When the Americans stormed into Baghdad in 2003, throngs of Iraqis were initially ebullient. Things turned quickly sour, however, as Iraqi police and security forces melted into thin air. Iraqis, who had been used to the strong hand of a dictator who kept order, now expected America to be that strong man. The Bush Administration apparently was not ready to entertain that eventuality, and the looting continued for quite some time. Things eventually evened out a bit, but in the run-up to and aftermath of a Democratic election victory, its been a trend for the worse. Let's hope the Democrats have some positive influence on the course in Iraq, rather than a knee-jerk pullout of troops that will embolden worldwide terrorism.
This past week, I took a computer programming course in New Jersey. One of the course attendees was a New Jersey man who had moved to America a few years ago from Pakistan. Many members of his extended family still live in Pakistan, and he visits them regularly.
One the first day of the class each class member introduced and told a bit about him- or herself. When the Pakistani man discovered that I had recently returned from Iraq, he was interested in my perspective on the issue. Most people's first question is, "Is it really like it says on the news?" (No.) His question was more along the lines of "Do you think the Iraqis are going to be able to stand on their own two feet?"
From his perspective, the Iraqis have not succeeded in the process of liberty as much as the Pakistanis have. But the likely reason for this is that not enough time has passed. Pakistanis have been trying to achieve freedom for a much longer period of time than the Iraqis, and yet their successes are often interrupted by military coups and other problems.
It is to be expected that the Iraqi liberty exercise will take time, like any other attempt at bringing freedom to a formerly despotized land. In retrospect, it looks pretty silly that America helped to build up and support Saddam Hussein, and so as a meager penance perhaps we have an obligation to ensure that the Iraqi freedom train is firmly on the tracks.
Recently, in an agreement with Balad, Iraq, the US military pulled back and gave more responsibility to the Iraqi military. Shortly thereafter, well-organized terrorists attacked and gained the upper hand on the Iraqi security forces. After the attack, the main question on the minds of the people was "Where were the Americans?" Such an attitude must be replaced with one of personal and community resolve.
This is not to say that everything coming from Iraq is bad news. Sunni Shia occasionally band together against the terrorists. All of the provinces except for Baghdad and Anbar are essentially patrolled and controlled by Iraqis. And there's more--it's just that we don't hear much about it, and the news media is not entirely to blame.
Good news is a magnet for terrorists, we have learned. In the past, announcements of completed projects and successful integration of peoples brought acts of terror from the insurgency. In an effort to quell such wanton barbarity, many positive news stories are intentionally suppressed.
Amid the storm of terror, good things are happening. It's important not to jump on the negativity bandwagon. Will Iraq achieve peace? I think they have it in themselves to do so. But my Pakistani friend and I agree, that peace in Iraq will not ultimately be achieved by the Americans. Peace will be achieved only if the Iraqis really want it.
Iraq--it's time to speed up the process by which you are standing tall. Like this family. America can't stay there forever. It's up to you.